Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council Unveils Urban Street Design Manual

Published February 21st, 2010 - 10:11 GMT

Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC), the agency responsible for the future of Abu Dhabi’s urban environment, has today unveiled new street design standards. They accord with the guiding principles of Capital 2030 which call for safer, more comfortable and aesthetic street environments across the Emirate.

The Urban Street Design Manual is based on key design principles including safety for all street users and the acknowledgement that all great street designs begin with pedestrians and ensure universal access and environmental sustainability embodied by the Estidama initiatives. The Urban Street Design Manual will be showcased on an interactive display at Cityscape Abu Dhabi 2010 to be held from 18 to 21 April 2010 at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). It will complement the multi-modal transit infrastructure aspect of Capital 2030 that aims to introduce key lifestyle enhancements for the residents of Abu Dhabi.

Similar lifestyle enhancement themes will also be applicable to waterfront, mixed use and community development, sporting venues, natural environment, revitalisation strategies and cultural heritage aspects of UPC’s other key urban development projects.

“Our new urban street design manual aspires to establish Abu Dhabi as a model for global mobility underpinned by diversity in movement options, flexibility in destination access, efficiency in time saving and enhancement of livability,” said H.E. Falah Mohammed Al Ahbabi, General Manager, Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.

With the introduction of the Urban Street Design Manual, the UPC aims to reduce the Emirate’s reliance on personal motorised vehicles by implementing a network of public transit to include high speed rail and rapid transit options such as trams and buses.  Furthermore, a system of new streets and redesigned streets will emphasise high quality urban design and cater to all modes of transport, making Abu Dhabi a better and safer place to walk, cycle, and take public transport.

The innovative street designs will provide genuine choice of movement by walking, cycling and public transport modes as well as in private motor vehicles. Abu Dhabi residents and visitors will start witnessing the transformation as early as 2010 when a City Centre street will be reconstructed according to the design standards. The newly unveiled manual will serve as an effective guide for designers that will help them create street designs that embody the principles of Vision 2030.

The Urban Street Design Manual for Abu Dhabi has been developed by UPC in close cooperation with the Department of Transport (DoT), the Department of Municipal Affairs and the three Municipalities, the Traffic Police and other relevant agencies. The manual will apply to all streets in the Emirate including those parts scheduled for urbanization by 2030. Freeways and rural arterial roads are not intended to be covered by the manual.

The Urban Street Design Manual pays particular attention to streetscapes and gives designers the tools to ensure that all of the elements that make up the area between the curb and building fronts are in the right place and are the right size for the context. Unobstructed pedestrian walkways are required and the proper placement of street lights, traffic sign poles, utility boxes, benches and plantings will now be mandatory for designers of new or redesigned streets.

Following the guidance of the manual for designing new streets and retrofitting existing ones will ensure that streets are designed appropriately for their surroundings. For instance, streets that are lined with popular retail shops like Hamdan Street in Abu Dhabi or Khalifa Street in Al Ain will feature wider sidewalks with more shade, buffering of sidewalks from traffic lanes, and possibilities for sidewalk cafes and street trees.
Similarly, streets that serve lower density residential neighborhoods will be designed for low traffic speed with safe pedestrian crossings to encourage walking to local services and to provide quiet environments for families.

The first application of the Manual on the ground is underway with a redesign of Khalifa Street in the Abu Dhabi city centre set for commencement of construction this year. Other streets across the Emirate will also start to employ these updated practices as of today.

“Abu Dhabi is the region’s first masterplanned urban centre and its existing road infrastructure has served the city and the rest of the Emirate well. But the rapid economic growth we have witnessed in recent years and the projected population boom will gradually render this infrastructure inadequate. Having the foresight to plan for infrastructure ahead of time is the trademark of Vision 2030 and this project embodies strategic and scientific elements based on months of research, with advise on world-wide best practice from international experts,” said Mr. Al Ahbabi.

According to Plan Capital 2030, streets and buildings should be human-scaled and oriented to the pedestrian. Buildings need to relate to streets and their coexistence should provide for good network connectivity further relieving vehicular congestion. The creation of complete neighborhoods with inviting open space, transit and retail facilities are also central to the plan which also makes a strong case for well designed neighborhood-serving parks and open spaces within the block.   

“Because all trips begin and end with a walk, walking should be made as comfortable as possible all year round in Abu Dhabi. Ultimately we want to see a shift from streets without activity to lively public places, from auto-filled streets and lack of public space to limited on-street parking and welcoming public open spaces,” said Al Ahbabi.

Highlights of the design direction also include enhanced connectivity between streets and the waterfront, the creation of a connected multi-modal street hierarchy, provisions for an open space framework and community facilities, innovative shading and cooling solutions, expanded managed parking spaces and an overall pedestrian-friendly orientation.

“As the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is asserting its natural political leadership by promoting a visionary and forward thinking urban development strategy with its own dimension given to the term and based on influence rather than size. By developing the concept of ‘Sustainable Urban Mobility’, the UPC is promoting a concrete and influential example that demonstrates the consistency of our approach. Our goal is to create the framework for the people and visitors of Abu Dhabi to enjoy a truly enhanced lifestyle,” concluded Al Ahbabi.

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